Building Family Unity Series: “Go Outside!”
Many of us have fond memories of childhoods spent riding bikes, playing Kick the Can, and swimming all day in the river. The days were long in the great outdoors, and the time unscheduled. Contrast that to now. Our busy schedules don’t allow for much time to explore. Kids spend time roaming virtual worlds instead of the woods. And all the while, experts are waving red flags with statistics that argue we must get kids unplugged and back to nature. As it turns out, mom’s advice to “go outside and play” was pretty darn good.
Child advocacy expert Richard Louv, author of the book Last Child in the Woods, has coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe the lack of nature in the lives of children today. The phenomenon Louv has identified is often associated with many of today’s troubling childhood trends, including obesity, attention disorders and depression.
Not only is being in nature good for kids’ mental and physical health, it’s also a don’t-miss opportunity for families to bond. When we explore, adventure, and learn together, the strands of unity are woven tightly. Not only is being in nature itself good, but we ourselves unplug, which, as it turns out, is just as healthy for us as our kids. We focus on our relationships, and that very attention makes others’ feel cared for and loved, therefore strengthening our unity.
If you aren’t by nature a lover of the great outdoors, you may need to push yourself here. Trust me on this one. Something happens out there. The fresh air, the mountains, the trees, the QUIET, it all feeds the soul in a powerful way. Add a little adventure to that and it’s a recipe for success.
Kids thrive on adventure. They absolutely eat it up. And did you know studies show that being skilled in the outdoors builds their confidence too? I see that in my own kids….and in me. I once belayed myself from one side of a roaring river to the other with a 60lb. pack on my back. Did that build my confidence? OH YA. If I could do that, what else could I do? It’s this kind of thought process that instills strength.
Learning something new is another great way to tie knots of togetherness. I once read a book that said that bribing kids to learn a new skill (not attitude) is sometimes helpful and OK. For example, if your child is scared of heights, and you want to take her rappelling, then you would offer some kind of motivational reward to help her get past that hurdle. Once she does with the extra incentive, she now knows she can do it, she conquers a fear, and the reward is no longer necessary. Just food for thought if you have a child whose fear is keeping her from trying new things. On the flip side, maybe YOU are afraid to try something. Let your kids in on that. Give them the opportunity to encourage you and help you overcome your fear… and thank them later!
Teach your children. Chances are there is a parent or grandparent who has some skill and can offer some great outdoor education. Passing these life skills along is as important as developing their math skills (I guess that can be argued, but I’ll argue it)!
Find something you simply enjoy doing. Up until this year I could beat my kids on skis down the mountain. We love to race! My kids like leaving me in their snow dust now. Have you ever cut up fresh tracks on a powder day together? Heaven! Skiing together is my absolute favorite.
My husband loves to golf and has taught the kids. He often spends one on one time on the course. They like playing to win the prized orange ball each hole, and he gets to do something he enjoys with his favorites. It’s a win-win.
This song by Trace Adkins drives home the point I’m trying to make:
Connecting in the outdoors is a great way to build family unity. Make a list of 3 things you want to do outside with your kids this summer, set the dates, and…